While we were in Bali, the lay-out of the on-line version of Arab News changed, drastically. You can no longer look at the on-line version and know what was actually on the front page. The headlines all run on as if they are all on the front page, when, in actuality, they are not. When I clicked on Arab News this morning and saw this, "Abuse pushes maids to end their lives," I thought, "Gee that is on the front page?" Well, of course it isn't. It is on page four, just barely noticeable next to the quarter-page size advertisement for some local magazine. Abuse of maids? Why bother even mentioning it?
"Housemaids are [sic] claiming violence and mistreatment are the main reasons why many of them try to end their lives." No. Really? Because when they move to a foreign country to try to make a living for themselves and to support the families that they left behind, they actually thought they would be working normal hours and get paid and treated like a respected employee? Phooey on that. Make them work around the clock, allowing them only two or three hours of sleep. Oh, and make sure that the refrigerator you've purchased has a lock on it. They all do, here. Seriously. Go to any appliance store and find a refrigerator or a freezer without a lock on it. Just try. Salma, an Indonesian housemaid said, "I worked in a house where the sponsors used to feed us one meal a day and lock the fridge later to make sure we didn't eat anything else." The article reports, "In the last couple of years there have been countless reports of abuse in the media, including testimonies from maids about the withholding of salaries, verbal or physical abuse and restrictions on their movements." Last couple of years? We've been here seven years. Seven isn't normally considered just a "couple." "Couple," means two - three, pushing it - but then you are into "few."
Interestingly enough, while we were enjoying cold beverages on the patio of a restaurant in Kuta, Bali, our waitress, Maggie, struck up a conversation from us, starting with "Where are you from?" It went on from there. She asked my husband what he did for work and some of the usual questions one might expect from someone when you are meeting foreigners. Bali does not get an abundance of American visitors. Many from Australia, quite a few from Europe and a lot from Japan and China. Not Americans, though. She asked us how long our flight was and we explained that we had actually flown from Saudi Arabia where we live. "Oooh. Saudi Arabia. I have heard stories about Saudi Arabia. They torture the workers there." Well, no, not really, Maggie. They do not torture all of their workers. Just some. Mostly the maids. You are better off working at this restaurant and working on your farm with your 3,000 chickens. So, you see? These women know about the conditions and the plight of foreign maids here. Yet, they are often left with little choice than but try to make a living regardless of the conditions, elsewhere, such as working as housemaids in The Sandbox. It was an interesting conversation.
In the article, there is reference to an article which was published on February 27th about an Indonesian maid taken to the hopsital "when she fell from the third floor of her sponsor's building." Fell? Jumped! [If I could find it, I'd link it.] "The doctors later found that the maid had been beaten up and tortured and found burns and lashing marks on her back." [Oops. Sorry, Maggie, you are right. Tortured.]
A man [game: guess the nationality] has been exiled from Riyadh and sentenced to 100 lashes after having an affair. Exiled? You may go anywhere in the country, but stay out of Riyadh! Yeah. That ought to really punish him. And 100 lashes. Apparently a father complained "that the man had seduced his daughter, taken her to an apartment and slept with her." Removal from Riyadh and 100 lashes. Some punishment. What if it had been someone else?
Two items that I cannot find at Arab News on-line site from today's paper...
An 70-something-year-old man was not allowed to divorce his 18-year-old wife. Why? He couldn't remember her name. I'd say that was some marriage!
I do have a happy "feel good" story to share about marriage in The Sandbox, though, about a young couple we met on the plane on our way to Bali. During the first leg of our journey, from Bahrain to Singapore, they were seated directly in front of us. I could tell by the young woman's actions that they were newlyweds. I could just tell! Again, when we got on the plane from Singapore to Bali, they were seated directly in front of us. The young woman had changed her head-covering from black to white, though. So, I asked them if they had just gotten married and were going on their honeymoon. The young woman, Meer, positively beamed and smiled from ear-to-ear. Her new husband, Dammah, smiled. We chatted. I asked them if I could take their picture, and they allowed me to do so on the condition that it not be published or publicy shared, anywhere. I will not post the picture of them as the couple, or of the one I took of Meer. I have to tell you, though, that the exhubrance that was absolutely radiating from Meer was heart-warming. She allowed me to ask some very personal questions about their relationship and about marriage ceremonies, here. Meer's responses were incredibly candid and honest. That conversation - and those questions and answers - will remain private, as well. I so wish I could share the huge beaming smile of this young woman! It is important to realize that not all marriages that take place on this side of the world are those that are sure to end in unhappiness like that of an 18-year-old being married to someone old enough to be her grandfather. DH and I have just celebrated our eighteenth anniversary. I wished Meer and Dammah as many - no, even more - happy years as DH and I have had.
Something else on the back page of today's paper is a picture of two new fashions from a fashion show in Jeddah on Thursday. Something's missing, though. The woman's head is not covered! Have to give the two designers credit for trying to come up with new ways to design the traditional thobe and abeyah. Oooh. A green thobe. With a capelet attached. Interesting. The abeyah is actually kind of nice. To foo-foo for me, and awfully, awfully low cut for this part of the Middle East. That is a lot of neck showing there!
Not missed on the back page of the paper, however, is this. A quick little blurb about how the much despised woman known as Sarah Palin grabbed bundles of swag from a gift suite at an Oscar's festivity of some sort. No matter that it is all a lie and that the woman, Melissa Lemer, running that particular gift suite has demanded a retraction. The article is from the AP and the AP would rather shrivel up and disband than to ever issue an apology to Sarah Palin or offer a retraction! Expect that in 4, 3, 2, 1, never.